Golden Age Showcase: A selection of comics about 9/11

So it’s September 11th today.

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They say everyone who is old enough to remember 9/11 remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news.  I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I remember being in middle school and being hurried into an auditorium by the entire staff and not really understanding what was going on until much later.

September 11th was an important event in American history and for American comics as well.  For starters, it was the deadliest attack on American soil by a foreign threat since Pearl Harbor.

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We all know that Pearl Harbor was the principal event that brought the United States into World War 2, but it was also the event that guided the direction of American comics towards superheroes,

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and war comics.

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If we take a step back this makes a lot of sense.  Comic book publishers saw that the American people needed escapist power fantasies where all their problems could be solved by walking metaphors that could punch their problems in the face and this trend would continue as America became a world wide military superpower that became increasingly involved in world affairs.

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Just like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 was an event that rekindled our interest in superheroes.

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and it even revitalized an interest in modern military narratives, although these tended to find their way into video games and other forms of media.

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Once again, it was a way for American culture to make sense of our place in the world and give a brightly colored metaphor to our problems.  The only differences were that our heroes fought in Afghanistan instead of Europe and a lot of creators had to deal with a more complex and morally grey fallout.

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In many ways post 9/11 America paralleled post Pearl Harbor America and comic books were there to document and process it.

I know it happened a long time ago, that it brings up painful memories that a lot of us would like to forget, and that many of us would like to keep the political and social fallout that the event caused out of our comic books, but stuff like this is important and needs to be talked about.

So today I’m going to give a brief overview of three comics that dealt with the events of 9/11 and a little bit about the background and influences of each one.

Amazing Spiderman #36

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This comic hit the stores on December of 2001, a mere two months after the attacks.  As a result, it is the closest out of the three comics to the actual attacks, during a time when it was still terrifyingly fresh in our minds and we were all still standing together against a threat that we really didn’t understand.

Out of all the superheroes in the modern pop culture cannon, Spiderman is probably the one who is most connected to New York, and one of the most hard hit by the events of 9/11.

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While New York has always had a special place in comic books as the birthplace of the American superhero industry, Spider Man has had a special relationship with the city.  He’s the city’s defender, the protector of the ordinary people living there, and I’m willing to bet that he’s incredibly grateful for all of the tall skyscrapers around that allow him to actually use his webs effectively.

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The attacks would even have an effect on the Sam Raimi Spiderman movie, forcing Sony to remove a shot of the Twin Towers from a trailer,

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and inspiring Sam Raimi to include a “this is New York!  If you mess with him you mess with all of us” scene into the movie.

The comic itself was written by the legendary writer J. Michael Straczynski and was drawn by Marvel stalwart John Romita Sr.  It isn’t part of a larger story, it’s just Spiderman wandering the wreckage of Ground Zero and trying to process it all.

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Now, I have seen some criticism over the years about this comic, and I can kind of see why.  There’s a page where some of the most violent and destructive villains in the Marvel Universe are just standing in the wreckage, doing nothing.
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Hell, this wasn’t even the first time that Marvel destroyed the Twin Towers in their version of New York.  Juggernaut did it in an issue of X-Force in 1991 and laughed about it.

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but this is not the kind of comic if you ask me this comic deserves our attention and respect as a way for a company that is so engrained into the culture of New York to come to terms with an event that shook the city and the country to its core.

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In the Shadow of No Towers

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In the Shadow of No Towers was published in 2004 and was written by indie comics legend Art Spiegelman, the author of the groundbreaking graphic novel Maus.

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Mr. Spiegelman is a native New Yorker and was there during the attacks.  He was a contributor to the New Yorker magazine at the time and is responsible for the cover of the magazine published on September 24th 2001.

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He’s also a big fan and advocate of comics and takes a lot of inspiration from a lot of the early comic book artists, and it shows in his work.  The book itself is much more personal than the Spiderman comic, but at the same time it has something more to say about the event and its impact.

On one hand it’s about the author himself and where he was during the attacks.  His daughter was attending school near the Twin Towers on that day and the author is not afraid to talk about the fear and terror of actually being up close and personal to an event like that was.

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On the other hand, this book was published in 2004 and while we had come to grips with the attack itself, we were neck deep in the consequences that the attack wrought on American culture and politics. Specifically we were at the beginning of what would become a long, drawn out military occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Spiegelman saw what was going on, how the attacks were being used to justify spending billions of dollars and killing thousands of American troops (along with Lord knows how many Iraqi and Afghani citizens), and he was not happy with what he saw.

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This book uses old school comic characters and techniques to talk about 9/11 and its aftermath and it is really worth checking out.

Ex Machina

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This comic came out the same time as In the Shadow of No Towers but instead of being a one off graphic novel, it was a 50 issue comic series that lasted six years and was published by DC Comics.

The series was created and written by Brian K. Vaughn,


who has been doing a lot of great comic book work and is most well known for creating the indie mega hit Saga.

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Now, Vaughn is not a native New Yorker but he did go to New York University and got his start there and, according to the author himself, he created Ex Machina as a rant against the political leadership of the time.

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The comic presents an alternate history of New York and America.  It’s a future where there is a single superhero called “The Great Machine” and he manages to stop one of the planes from crashing into one of the towers.  In the aftermath he is elected to become mayor of New York City and the comic deals with his term in office.

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The comic is a political drama and out of the three titles we’ve talked about it is probably the most detached from the actual events of 9/11.  While it actually changes the events of that day, it uses the superhero story to tell a gripping and meaningful story that shines a light on American politics and how our country’s leaders used the Twin Towers to guide the American public towards the future we are living in now.  The comic is brilliant and it is definitely worth your time.

So there you have it, three different comics, by three different types of comic professionals, talking about the same event through different viewpoints and motivations.  And while it is important to acknowledge the fallout and changes to our culture and way of life, it is important to never forget what happened and how we can ensure it will never happen again.

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Cambrian Comics Friday Showcase: My favorite comic #2

Today we’re back from Boston Comic Con (we’ll be posting pictures over the next couple of weeks on our Facebook page) so now we’re starting right were we left off.  My second favorite comic book series is another title from Image Comics and the strongest argument I’ve ever seen for creator owned, written, and produced work.

2. Saga (Image Comics)

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Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

Issues (as of writing): 30

Saga is brought to us by comic book and screen writer Brian K. Vaughn whose resume is one of the most impressive out there to date.

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(note: he worked on the show from season 3-5)

Here he teams up with artist Fiona Staples who is widely considered one of the greatest comic book artists around today.

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Together they created Saga, a science fiction epic about two soldiers from opposing sides who fall in love and have to travel across the universe to raise and protect their child all while dodging monsters, assassins, and their former cohorts in a story that combines elements of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet.


First and foremost the set up and character archetypes are unbelievably cliche.  I’m serious, if you’ve seen any science fiction movie in the past 30 years you can guess what’s probably going to happen.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they run away but can’t run fast enough to escape the forces pursuing them, people die in tragic circumstances, it’s all very sad.  And with all due respect to Ms. Staples, the artwork does not lend itself very well towards traditional sci fi.  When you hear the words “science fiction” a lot of people think of this


not this


So we have a cliche plot coupled with artwork that seems a bit weird to someone more used to traditional sci fi

But this comic is much more than that and absolutely (pardon my language) fucking nails it!

This comic could very easily be a Star Wars knockoff or a Romeo and Juliet clone but it isn’t.  Vaughn’s stellar writing makes all these characters unique, complex, and truly gripping.  In the best kind of written traditions no character is completely good or evil, everyone has their own hopes and dreams that make you want to root for them and their own flaws that make you want to scream at the comic book when they do something really stupid.

Consider the man in the picture above.  His name is The Will and he is a freelance assassin tasked with hunting down the two literal star crossed lovers.


As you can see The Will is incredibly capable (and yes this is a very violent image, more on that later) and incredibly deadly.  But he is much more than that.  Over the course of the comic he goes from apathetic about his life and work to rescuing a child prostitute and starting his own little twisted family (I won’t dare say anymore and risk spoiling the plot, go read this book).  He even has a cat that can tell if you’re lying or not.


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And this brings me to the two main characters, Alana and Marko, who are now officially my favorite couple in any form of media.


I mentioned that this comic is a bit…risque and that is absolutely true.  This is NOT a comic book for children. There’s blood, gore, sex, cursing, sex, violence, and did I mention sex?  But all of this goes towards making the two main characters very tender, very touching, and very believable.  Sure Alana and Marko have a child that they have to take care of and keep away from forces much larger than themselves and sure they did fall in love at first sight but the comic takes the next logical step and shows what really happens to couples when that first rush of true love wears off.  One minute the couple is happy, the next they are fighting and bickering, the next their running for their lives, and the next moment they’ve made up and proceed to screw each other’s brains out.  You know, how normal couples act.

And as for the art…



saga-vol-1-screen-2Fiona Staples has some of the best emotional drawing I have ever seen and her position as one of the best artists out there today is well deserved.

This comic is like nothing I, or anyone else, has ever seen.  It tells one of the best modern love stories while being set in a bizarre, quirky, violent, sexy, and fascinating universe that I just can’t get enough of.